Getting to a new climate deal: ‘It seems impossible until it is done’

Baku, December 14 AZERTAC

The Paris Agreement was gavelled through Saturday night, binding countries together into a unified matrix of progressively stronger climate action, starting in 2020 and, in principle, extending through the rest of the century. Invoking Nelson Mandela, French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius told the cheering crowd, “It seems impossible until it is done.”

At its heart, all governments have given a nod to IPCC science establishing a ‘long-term temperature goal’ at “well below 2 degrees Celsius” and if possible lowering further to 1.5 degrees. Understanding that we are currently at one degree of planetary warming and vulnerable countries are feeling impacts today, the deal introduces new concepts that shift the arc of our global energy future towards decarbonization – ‘peak’ carbon emissions curves, and achieving “emissions neutrality in the second half of the century.”

China, Saudi Arabia, Venezuela, India, the US and Canada though it is not yet clear how each will operationalize the details. China, the world’s largest emitter, has already committed to peak emissions by 2030.

Developed countries have also agreed to accelerate actions over the next four years and developing countries found acceptable standards of verification and monitoring. To make it possible for the US to act and developing countries to ramp up their involvement, participation in the agreement is legally binding, though the INDC target is not.

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